Regional Tree Farmers named by ATFS

The American Tree Farm System announced in July the four Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year from among 83,000 certified Tree Farmers. They are:

John and Ann Boutwell and Peggy Boutwell Autrey of Plattville, Alabama.
Duke and Naomi Holland of Poleridge, Montana.
Raul Chiesa and Janet Sredy of Elizabeth Pennsylvania.
Merlin and Georgie Becker of Manawa, Wisconsin.

Of four regional winners, one will be chosen for the National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year award. Votes may be case on the ATFS website.

ATFS, which celebrates it 75th anniversary next year, has honored more than 150 exceptional Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers since the award's inception in 1976, These individuals are considered the top tier of woodland owners for forest stewardship and the promotion of good land management within their communities. Woodland owners considered for the award must demonstrate exceptional efforts to preserve and enhance their woodlands, and thus the clean water and air, wildlife habitat, recreational activities, and wood for homes and paper products that come from their land, all of which are exemplified on the ATFS sign.

"Our Tree Farmers are contributing environmental, social, and economic goods significantly beyond their own property boundaries," said Tom Martin, President of American Forest Foundation, the organization who runs ATFS. "Recognizing and honoring these top individuals who help all Americans realize that everyday needs from forests, like clean water and air, is the least we can do to thanks them.

Boutwell Family, Plattville, Alabama
Southern Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the year, the Boutwell Family of Alabama, consider themselves to have "the best job on earth." Unlike most landowners, John Boutwell or his family perform most of the hard work and sweat equity on their land. Throughout the years, they have overcome challenges such as a severe pine beetle infestation and a hurricane (Ivan) that left damaging effects, working through each event with sustainable management in mind and finding solutions that enhances their woods afterwards. But what's more, the lessons they have learned from these challenges have not stopped on their doorstep. The Boutwells focus much of the time teaching and sharing the information they have gained with others. They often host Boy Scout Troops, large community groups, or individual landowners, all to demonstrate various good management practices. Because of their dedication to the total community, many others in Alabama have purchased land and are on the path to becoming certified as well.

Holland Family, Poleridge, Montana
Western Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the year, Duke and Naomi Holland, live by the motto, "Where you can't tell work from play.' Bordering the Flathead National Forest and a short distance from Glacier National Park the Holland's Tree Farm is living proof that active management can be done in harmony with critical wildlife habitat and unmatched scenic beauty. Due to its location to a national forest the Holland' land is home to a stretch of Trail Creek, an important spawning stream for the endangered bull trout and the native cutthroat trout, Aware of the importance of this stream to many species, the Holland focus their management on water quality and riparian habitat. They closely monitor wildlife use and patterns, and document sightings and impacts to vegetarian by various animal species. Over time, they have seen firsthand the immediate relationship between the moose populations and their riparian vegetation. Their efforts also focus on passing on their land better than they found it, motivating their grandchildren and others in the community to love and care for the forests as well, to ensure the values of our woodlands and its management make it to the next generation.

Becker Family, Manawa, Wisconsin
North Central Regional Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year, Merlin and Georgia Becker's property dates back four generations, but the love and dedication to the land is stronger than ever. Active hunter, the Beckers spend extensive time and energy studying, documenting, and managing the deer and turkey populations in the region. They manage their land to ensure there is young tree growth for food for wildlife, and have helped maintain the habitat of a pair of bald eagles for several years. But the Beckers don't keep their land and its beauty themselves. Their woodlands are a designated Demonstration Forest that is open to the public for self-guided tours with maps and interpretation stations along the trails. It is estimated that several hundred people have had the opportunity to tour the Becker Woodlands because of this. Also active in the community, the Beckers can often be seen hosting field days, presenting at forestry conferences, and meeting with legislators, all to showcase their hard work, the stewardship to their forests and their commitment to sustainable forestry.

Raul Chiesa and Janet Sredy, Elizabeth Pennsylvania
Northeastern Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the year, Raul Chiesa and Janet Sredy, manages of Beckets Run Woodland, is an exceptional example of a restoration project to a severely damaged urban-wildland interface, just miles from a major metropolitan area, Resting 20 miles outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Beckets Run Woodlands is a piece of vital property that suffered over a 50-year period from poor agriculture practices, vandalism, invasive species, fractured ownership, and more. Taking over ownership in 2007, Raul and Janet set on a path to restore the native forest ecosystem, enhancing the health of trees and protecting the wildlife habitat and biodiversity. Working with their state service forester, Raul and Janet created a forest management plan, taking part in the U.S. Forest Service "Forest Stewardship Program," and becoming ATFS certified. Today, with Beckets Run thriving, Raul and Janet have taken the lad in their community to help neighboring landowners in stewardship as well, They have developed agreements to combat invasive plant species, established partnerships for hunting and improving wildlife among bordering properties, and have formed an educational partnership with neighbors, the local university and DCNR to protect and study rare plant species.

ATFS facilitates and certifies that family woodland owners are doing right by their land, meeting standards of sustainability and practicing good stewardship for the future. Today, ATFS includes more than 24 million acres of certified forestland. The ATFS program began in 1941 with many Americans doubting whether out forests and their resources could meet the growing needs of society. ATFS has proved that well managed family owned forests can meet Americans' needs for wood and wood fiber, as well as wildlife habitat, clean water and air, and recreational opportunities.